The Who Da Guy issue is my favorite of the year — and also my least favorite. On the one hand, we get the chance to individually profile more surfers than in any other issue. This year, we were able to tell 26 different stories: inextricably linked siblings, eight of the East Coast’s most promising groms, four hardworking underground heroes, and eight more national champions, vagabonds, and local kingpins. That’s an opportunity to spread the love and dive deep that doesn’t come around very often. On the other hand, trying to wrangle 26 action shots, 26 mug shots, 26 interviews, and 26 sets of answers is an exercise in insanity. And then, once you finally get them all polished off and look back on the cohesive whole, doubts start to creep in: Is it good or bad to have all three of our brother/sister acts posing with their surfboards? (We did give them creative freedom…) Do we have too many frontside turns? (Better than too many frontside airs.) We don’t have any South Carolina surfers in here (stay tuned next issue.) We don’t have any longboarders in here (stay tuned next issue.)

And then came the wildcards that popped up during the last six weeks: CJ Hobgood announcing his retirement from the World Tour. East Coast domination at NSSA, Surfing America, and Volcom competition. We scrambled to try to figure out the best way to cover these news stories with the resources available, shifting page ideas, rearranging cover designs, and using web coverage to supplement print. It all reminded me of a saying my brother-in-law, a retired Air Force captain and compulsive organizer, loves to trot out: “You can plan the plan, but you can’t plan the outcome.” That’s the beauty of making magazines, though: after weeks of bouncing between frustration and elation, a million different moving pieces finally all fall into place, inevitably just a few hours before deadline. I’ve had my hands in 65 issues of ESM since 2007, and the effort required to put one to bed, as we say in the publishing industry, never gets any less dynamic. As we approach our 25th anniversary — which makes us the third-oldest American surf magazine still in operation behind Surfer and Surfing — we wear that dynamism as a point of pride, especially since our staff numbers are a fraction of the bigger outlets.

But as Dugan and Mez and all of ESM’s contributors have done since 1991, we make up for that deficit with extra passion, harder work, quicker responses, and a more intrinsic sense of communal responsibility. Hence the 26 profiles you’ll find in the pages that follow. And if we missed something, rest assured that we’ll concentrate extra hard on including it next issue… which we’ll already be working on by the time you read this. By Nick McGregor

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